Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Day Eight: Strathaven to Tyndrum...

There was a herd of cows in the field adjacent to our start point this morning, it seems they wanted to investigate us as we made our last minute adjustments before setting off, they came ambling over, gathering around the low hedge and craning their necks to get a closer look. None of them asked for autographs though and so we pedalled off, heading for Glasgow and our route over the Erskine Bridge.

This was easy riding, the vile weather and freezing cold of yesterday had morphed into something much more acceptable, at least for Scotland. We looked up at a ragged, mixed sky with a delicate hint of blue the clouds scudding across the hills in the distance. The land coloured with raw pigments; ochres and umbers. The roads were smoother too, relatively pot-hole free, everything was looking promising. Revitalised by an excellent evening meal and a good night's sleep we negotiated our way through Glasgow finally spotting the Erskine Bridge rising above the trees and looking ridiculously high from our viewpoint. The bridge spans the River Clyde and is the tourist gateway from Glasgow to the Highlands. As we approached we noticed that the cycle lane was closed, no option then but to mix it with the traffic. Riding over the bridge it was remarkable how steep the rise to the apex was, of course the inevitable wind made things seem harder as we edged our way across. Gary, who was riding behind me, was alarmed by a car that came very close to him and skidded slightly as it swerved to avoid him, so much so that his quick risk assessment resulted in him lifting his bike over the barrier and onto the closed down cycle lane, figuring he would be safer there. I didn't see any of that and carried on along the main road. As we approached the end there was a grumpy, constipated, sour-faced Scotsman - wearing hi-vis clothing and looking official - he was waiting for Gary and proceeded to give him a lecture about the fact that the cycle lane was closed. Gary agreed that he knew the cycle lane was closed but considered the risks were more favourable on that side of the barrier! We were over the bridge and moving on.
The Erskine Bridge

On the road!
We had arranged a meeting for breakfast at Old Kilpatrick, some misunderstandings over the exact location caused a minor delay to that plan, but we sorted it in the end. Our next step was to join the cycle trail heading to Loch Lomond, this kept us off the busy A82 and made for an enjoyable traffic-free section. The path snaked through wooded glades and followed a river up to the Loch Lomond Shores National Park, we rejoined the main road there. The wind had dropped and we now felt we were in Scotland proper. The scenery was of course magnificent, majestic hills all around, steep sided valleys with pine woods, the impossible blueness of Loch Lomond itself. These were views to remember and linger over - but we still had a long way to go. Onwards through Luss and Inverbeg with rich and seemingly never ending woodlands, the verges strewn with wildflowers and grasses. We reached Tarbet and then on for a short stop at Inveruglas. So far this had been a great day, we were making progress and yet totally aware that we were travelling through some of the most memorable scenery in the British Isles.

Our campsite at Tyndrum
The final section of the day led us to Ardlui at the head of the Loch, then continuing along the A82 to Crianlarich and to our campsite for the night at Tyndrum.

Tyndrum is the smallest town in the UK to be served by more than one railway station, it seems a slightly strange outpost, a meeting place rather than a community, a crossroads on a journey rather than a destination. Our camp site was good, with a pine forest behind us bordered by a trickling stream. Gary said that the showers here were the best he'd ever experienced. They were certainly the most powerful, the jets emitting a blast that was capable of inflicting a bruise!

A fish and chip supper was just the thing and then straight to bed - another big day looming tomorrow.

Strathaven to Tyndrum - 81 miles
Max Speed: 36.4mph
Time on bike: 6hrs 19 mins
Ascent: 3493ft
Calories used: 4167

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